Featured Skater: HerHeiny Granger #310

Photo by Jim Bush
This month’s featured skater joined QCRG in 2009. HerHeiny Granger has played for the Devil Dollies, the Lake Effect Furies, the Suicidal Saucies, and the Subzero Sirens, in addition to one season spent as a referee. Heiny is very recognizable to QCRG fans, as she can be seen on the track in her signature sports goggles. She is a formidable blocker and pivot, who seems to have an uncanny ability to read the pack. Outside of derby, she is a mom, Disney super fan, and avid crafter.

Where are you originally from?
North Tonawanda, New York.

What is your day job?
I’m a kitchen and bath designer at Kinetic Kitchen and Bath in Niagara Falls. I go to clients’ homes, I take measurements, I talk to them and find out what they like, and then I design their kitchen or their bathroom. We change layouts and help them pick out products. The company that I work for also does installations. We do everything from beginning to end. Kind of like HGTV, but only it’s the real world, so it takes more than a weekend.

So you’ve been part of QCRG since 2009? You spent your first season as a ref. What can you share with us about your experience?
Being a referee was great. It was sad because I didn’t get drafted my first year, but I decided to referee and I learned a lot. It gave me time to really learn the game. I was able to learn the rules, and watching the game from the inside gave me so much. It was a great because I didn’t have to learn how the game was played while learning how to skate. Now when I play, I think I see gameplay differently while I’m in the pack verses not having refereed. It’s a little slower. I can see the action happening in my head almost from above.

From 2011 to 2015, you were also a member of the Lake Effect Furies. The team changed a lot during that time and since. What did you learn from your time with this team and what can you tell us from this experience?
It was great. At first, I tried out because the practice time worked better with my schedule. I made the team and I never really thought I would be a chartered skater, let alone a rostered skater. At that time, it was just once a week and it was a three hour practice. It was pretty intense. I learned a lot of skills that we didn’t necessarily get on the home teams. I remember when Andy first made us do hockey stops. Everyone was like, “You’re going to break your ankle! Be careful!” Now hockey stops are just automatic and everybody should be able to do them.

When I made the charter, I was surprised!. It was a great experience. I learned a lot about being mentally prepared to be there for my team when I was needed. I was a player who was pulled into lines and didn’t see regular play every game, so I had to always be ready. It was very mental.

Photo by Jim Bush
But it was fun and I loved it. I miss skating with all of those skaters because they are awesome people. And I miss the intensity of the practices. I still get that with the Sirens, but I miss that level. But I’m old!

Your derby career has been a lot longer than many people, so you’ve experienced a lot of evolution in terms of not just rules of the sport, but also the general culture of roller derby. What has it been like being a part of this and how have you had to adjust?
I’m a rules nut, so the rule changes haven’t been so bad. It’s actually fun. I love learning the new rules. Learning how to incorporate a new rule is a challenging thing to do, because habits are hard to break, and it’s difficult to teach an old dog new tricks.

In general, today’s roller derby requires a different physicality because it’s a different type of game. There are people who were such a huge part of the league when I started, and now people coming in have no idea who they are. It’s kind of funny to me sometimes. When someone says, “I saw somebody wearing a Knockouts shirt and I went up to them, and it was Mia Mauler.” How do you not know who Mia Mauler is? She was a huge part of our league at one point.

Photo by Jim Bush
Do you have any favourite memories of old school QCRG?
At Rainbow Rink, we had rope lights and they were a lot of fun. We had a locker room upstairs behind the DJ booth, so we had to go up and down the stairs. Last year, there was a game where we had to get ready upstairs at RiverWorks. I put my skates on and everyone was like, “What are you doing?” We used to have to go up and down the stairs like ten times in skates. I also miss going to local bars in North Tonawanda like Dwyer’s and Ava’s after practices. That was really fun.

Could you tell us a little bit about your experiences when QCRG switched from Rainbow Rink to RiverWorks?
It was definitely different. It was a little bit challenging at first. The heating didn’t work and it was freezing. For the first game the track was just raw concrete. I played the second game at RiverWorks and although the track was painted the heat still didn’t work well and we were all in long johns and long shirts trying to stay warm.

I do think the move was a good one. It gave the Furies extra practice time, it definitely helped our league grow. And it gave us the ability to start the Subzero Sirens. Was everything perfect? No. We always want more practice time and we always want more access to the venue.

I do miss Rainbow Rink and that old school feeling. Old QCRG was very DIY. It was a bunch of people working together in order to get stuff done. Now are more organized and work more like a business and we function better as a league. You do lose some of those “down home” DIY elements, but we are better for it in the long run.

Photo by Jim Bush
This is your third season on the Subzero Sirens. What is your favourite thing about being on the Sirens? What are your personal goals for your 2018 travel season?
I love being able to play with other members of the league. When you’re on a home team, you only play against the other home teams. I like having that mix. It makes being on the home teams a little more fun too. I also love playing away games! When you know your opponent so well, it takes away from the unknown. With travel derby, you don’t really know what you’re getting into and I really like that. We have a lot of new girls on the Sirens this year and I’m excited to see where they go. I feel like we are ready to take it to the next level and become a very cohesive team. It’s our junior year and I see great things for us this season.

For both the Sirens and the Saucies, I want to up my game and be in more of a pivot position. I would like to be someone who can be called up to jam. I tend to be the headpin a lot, and I want to up my game so I do not always have to be in that position.

During your career, you also experienced an ankle injury. You returned from this. What was the most challenging thing about this experience for you? Do you have any advice to offer skaters who have suffered an injury?
The hardest thing was just not doing derby and having to sit on the sidelines. I came back stronger than I thought I was going to. I was very surprised at that. I would say that injured skaters should try and stay positive. Stay connected with your team; don’t ghost away. I went to every practice that I could, both home team and league practices. I would go to watch and take notes. It’s hard sometimes because your team is looking to move on and go forward. Be present, be there and soak up everything you can.

Photo by Joe Mac
You also took a break during your derby career to have a son. What was it like for you going through such a big life change, and then returning to roller derby?
I had never wanted children. I always said that I was never going to have kids. My husband and I changed our minds over time and then decided to. When I was pregnant, I still showed up. I was on the Furies and the Dollies and I still showed up to practices. I was there for my teams, whatever they needed. It was like having a larger family supporting me, but I was also supporting them. After I had my son and I was cleared to skate, they had Furies tryouts a week after. I had to do my assessments that week I came back. I was like, “This is insane!” But I did it! I was very happy. I tried to stay fit while pregnant and skated until it was appropriate to stop. I still worked out up to the point where I really was just too exhausted from making a human being.

On the track, you are a stellar blocker, capable of both killer defensive and very effective offense. You also wear the stripe occasionally. What is your favourite thing about blocking?
I like being a jammer hater. I love it when I have that jammer stuck on my butt and I am just tracking her around. I remember a Sirens game where a jammer saw me lining up in front of her and she said “not her again!” That made my day! I love to block with Celery. She and I just know where each other are going. We can cycle through and just keep holding. I also like when you can make eye contact with your jammer and just get them that little offensive pick and they just run through. It’s like, yeah! That’s awesome! I did that!

What do you consider your greatest strength as a blocker?
My greatest strength is my track awareness. I don’t have the best skating skills, but knowing what is happening is probably my best asset. When you first start playing, the game is a blur. Then it comes a point where it slows down and you can look and process.

Photo by Rene van Ee
You have also been known to don the star from time to time. What do you like about jamming?
I see myself more as a relief jammer. My goal is to get out as quickly as possible, not necessarily to get lead, and to stop the other jammer from scoring points. If they get one pass, or I get them to call it off before they get a full pass, then I feel confident and I feel good. I really want to work on it because I don’t think when I’m jamming. I know what to do when blocking, but I don’t know what to do when jamming.

It’s funny, recently the Sirens were practicing with the Furies, and I was jamming and all of the sudden I hear Rocky’s (Blackrock Bruiser’s) voice telling me to dip my shoulder because I was pushing. So I did it and it worked! Basically, my goal is to get through as quickly as possible.

Do you have any all-time favourite roller derby players?
I absolutely Smarty Pants and any time I get a chance to take a class with her, I do. I think she’s very smart. I love the way she communicates and uses her body. I pick up things really well from the way that she coaches. Also, Demanda Riot is another skater that I admire. I saw her and was like, “I want to do that!”

Even in QCRG, there’s so many skaters. I always try and look at somebody that does something really well and I try to emulate them: the swoop from Lip Service; the way Pepper Stix is everywhere she needs to be at the right time; Griff (Low-Hits Griffin) and her ability to power right through an opposing skater. There are a lot of awesome players in our league.

Do you have any advice for new skaters?
Be kind to yourself. There are some people with natural ability or sports background. I didn’t. The only time I ever skated was at elementary school skate parties. My mom would sew washcloths to the inside of my jeans to make little knee pads for me. I think the year I didn’t skate on a home team did me well. It was the first year we had Queens Court and I learned how to really skate and had time to work on the mechanics of skating. I wouldn’t have been useful or helpful on a team my first year. I tell new skaters to push yourself past your limits, and remember that this is a ridiculous sport! You are strapping wheels on your feet, hitting people and doing all sorts of crazy things. You’ll get there if you don’t give up, but you have to put in the time.